Scottish universities to face student support funding cuts following spending review

The cuts come as the cost of living for students increases

The Scottish government announced in its spending review their plans for the next five years regarding funding for universities.

With no plans to increase funding, universities will have to introduce more real-terms cuts of eight per cent, reducing the amount of student support funding available.

A survey done by the National Union of Students revealed that 56 per cent of students already struggle financially over the summer due to a lack of funding, with 12 per cent experiencing homelessness at the start of their studies.

Edinburgh’s The 93% Club called for a “reinstatement of a full package of student support” to ensure that education is not dictated by financial barriers.

The combined budget for the next five years is £1,745 million, with £349 million being allocated to student support and higher education yearly. This is a marked decrease compared to previous years, in 2018-2019 the budget was £946.4 million and in 2020-2021, was £925.6 million.

Responding to the spending review, UCU’s Scotland official, Mary Senior said: “Today’s spending review makes grim reading for students, parents, and staff in Scotland’s universities.”

NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly warned that students in Scotland face a “perfect storm” due to government cuts, industrial action and the rising cost of living, with UCU’s Scotland official Mary Senior saying that the “review makes grim reading for students, parents, and staff in Scotland’s universities”.

Both NUS and The 93% Club are calling on the Scottish Government to reinstate the Student Summer Payment to ensure that students are still being supported during the summer months.

In June 2021 the Scottish Government pledged to review summer support for students but it is unlikely that the review will conclude this academic year.

While £20 million of additional discretionary support was made available to students by the Scottish Government last summer, no new funds have been provided this year and, despite a clear need, discretionary funds remain underspent.

Matt Crilly commented: “Many students across Scotland have now received their last student support of the year and face yet another long summer without any upfront financial support. Coupled with the rising cost of living, the poorest students will be hit hard unless the Scottish Government takes action.

“Our survey of over 3,500 students found that over half found coping financially during the summer difficult and 12 per cent had experienced homelessness since starting their studies – Scotland will continue to fail its students if we don’t address the summer support gap”.

The 93% Club said: “As the cost of living crisis looms large for the country, we know that students are among those who will be hit hardest by soaring energy and food prices. We know this because students have been suffering under a cost of living crisis for years, with rising rents in our cities and a dysfunctional and inadequate student finance system.

“The recent news that student support is to be cut over the next five years is both disappointing and deeply worrying. We back calls by NUS Scotland for a #StudentSummerPayment to ensure that students are supported during the summer months, but also call for the reinstatement of a full package of student support to ensure education is accessible to everybody and nobody is shut out because of financial barriers.”

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